We’ve been “here before(link to historical ASEAN free trade agreements)”:http://www.aseansec.org/economic/afta/afta_agr.htm. The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement was first launched in 1992 with an agreement on region trade preferences. But the commitments and the deadlines kept slipping and some productswere later put on a slower track to trade liberalization—much to the annoyance of the more open economies in ASEAN. Nevertheless, by the start of 2002 (according to the “ASEAN Secretariat”:http://www.aseansec.org/12481.htm) duties on “most” products had been cut to 0 — 5 percent on intra-regional trade. “Now(link to story in the Guardian on line)”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-3235852,00.html the latest ASEAN summit meeting in Indonesia has announced an ambitious plan for a much wider network of free trade agreements, including agreements (already ‘on the table’)between ASEAN and China and ASEAN and India. bq. The blueprint, dubbed the Bali Concord II, envisions a single market and production base encompassing 500 million people. The goal is to create a multi-regional free trade area by 2020. It “appears(link to a story in the Financial Times)”:http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059480385123 that the Thai and Singapore governments, however, either don’t quite believe that the diverse ASEAN group will be able to achieve this new goal, or that the 2020 date is too far off. They announced that they’ll strike their own bilateral deal that will implement full free trade in advance of the regional deals being mooted by ASEAN.
Peter Gallagher is student of piano and photography. He was formerly a senior trade official of the Australian government. For some years after leaving government, he consulted to international organizations, governments and business groups on trade and public policy.
He teaches graduate classes at the University of Adelaide on trade research methods and the role of firms in trade and growth and tweets trade (and other) stuff from @pwgallagher